Russian bombed the Ukrainian port city Odesa for the second time since Moscow pulled out of a United Nations-Turkey brokered deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
Ukraine told the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that Russian strikes are hitting ports that hold more than 1 million tons of foodstuffs, the Kyiv Independent tweeted.
It is the third night, overall, that Moscow attacked Ukrainian port cities, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday. Russia pulled out of its deal with Ukraine on Monday. Up to 60,000 tons of grain may have been affected by the strikes.
On Wednesday, Russia said that it would treat ships coming into Ukraine as potentially carrying military supplies, which has led to concerns that Moscow might attack commercial ships. The NSC announced Wednesday night that Russia laid additional sea mines in the waters leading to Ukrainian ports, which might allow them to attack commercial ships and blame Ukraine.
The NSC released that information in order to share a warning about the danger in the Black Sea and the potential for food shortages, Kirby said.
“And that’s because of one party and one party only. And that’s Russia,” Kirby said. “We thought it was important to put that out there for the public.”
The United States does not currently have any assets in the Black Sea. Turkey closed the Bosphorus Strait to warships from non-Black Sea countries shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Pentagon urges Russia to rejoin the grain deal, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters Thursday. Grain prices have already risen in response, she added.
“The message that Vladimir Putin is sending to these countries is that he doesn’t care,” Singh said. “He continues to engage in this unjust, unprovoked war that seems to be his priority rather than the idea that there could be other starving countries all around the world because he has withdrawn Russia from the grain deal.”
One of the concerns of the lack of a grain deal is the potential of famine in lower-income countries that rely on foodstuffs that come from Ukrainian grain. While other grain sources rose up in response to the Russo-Ukrainian War, agriculture can fluctuate and those grain sources can easily stop due to low rivers or other climate concerns, Campbell University professor Sal Mercogliano previously told USNI News.
With the extra grain from Ukraine and other sources, there was some overabundance, which drove wheat prices down. Five European Union countries – Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania – have banned Ukrainian grain imports, although it will allow grain to travel through their countries, PBS reported. The ban is due to the overabundance of Ukrainian grain in the countries, which caused grain prices to fall, hurting farmers.
The grain deal is important for Ukraine, which relies on the exports for its economy, USNI News previously reported.
As part of the U.N.-Turkey brokered deal, Ukraine was able to export 32,856,036 tonnes of foodstuffs, with corn accounting for 51 percent followed by wheat at 27 percent, according to the U.N.
While grain goes to lower-income countries, it also went to a number of developed countries, which could use the grain and process it into foodstuffs for other countries.
The top five cargo destinations were China, Spain, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands.
United Nations World Food Program bought 80 percent of its grain from Ukraine. The grain would then go to Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti, according to the European Union. Prior to the war, the World Food Program bought 50 percent of wheat from Ukraine.